Where the 2011 reboot felt effortless in the way it recaptured that warmly anarchic Muppets humour, this sequel feels like it's working every step of the way. Yes, it's riotously silly and occasionally hilarious, but there are large chunks of the movie that just aren't funny at all, mainly because there's so much emphasis on the tangled web of a plot that the characters get lost in the shuffle.
It starts just as the last movie ended: the Muppets decide to do a sequel based on an idea from interloper Dominic (Ricky Gervais) to take their show on a world tour. But Dominic is actually in league with super-villain frog Constantine (Matt Vogel), who has just escaped from a gulag. So when the Muppet Show lands in Berlin, he orchestrates a swap: Constantine takes Kermit's place in the show, while Kermit (Steve Whitmire) is sent to Siberia under the watchful eye of guard Nadya (Tina Fey). Meanwhile, Interpol agent Jean-Pierre (Burrell) and CIA operative Sam Eagle (Eric Jacobson) are investigating a series of robberies mysteriously linked to Muppet performances in Berlin, Madrid and Dublin.
All of this builds to a head in London, where Constantine is staging an elaborate wedding to Miss Piggy (Jacobson) to distract from his real plan to steal the Crown Jewels. But this plot-strand feels predictable and limp compared to much more interesting character interaction. For example, scenes between Kermit and Fey are a lot more fun as they plan a musical revue with the inmates (and get Trejo and Liotta sing and dance!). And the escalating banter between Sam Eagle and Burrell is hilarious even as it indulges in cheap Euro-jokes.
Continue reading: Muppets Most Wanted Review
The writers of The Hangover stick with the same formula for this university-aged romp about three young guys who get far too drunk for their own good. It even opens on the morning after (they're walking naked across campus) before cycling back to piece together what actually happened. But all of the humour is as cheap as it can be, merely laughing at stupid behaviour rather than mining much genuine comedy out of the situation. At least the actors find some chemistry along the way.
Our three chuckleheads are party-boy Miller (Teller), smart-guy Casey (Astin) and their pal Jeff Chang (Chon), who is turning 21 at midnight. This prompts Miller and Casey to propose a night of drunkenness to celebrate his legal drinking age in style. But Jeff has his med school interview in the morning, so they have to sneak past his terrifying dad (Chau) to have just one drink together. Unsurprisingly, this drink turns into an epic bar crawl, culminating in Jeff's unconsciousness. And since Miller and Casey can't remember where he lives, they go on a ludicrously convoluted quest to find his address. This involves enraging a sorority house, releasing the university's mascot buffalo and tormenting the tough-talking boyfriend (Keltz) of a cheerleader (Wright) who catches Casey's eye.
Obviously, there's one massive problem with this whole premise: a cold shower and a cup of coffee would revive Jeff pretty easily. But then, Miller and Casey wouldn't need to go through, say, eight levels of frat-house drinking games to find a guy who might know Jeff's address. At least all of the antics give Teller and Astin a chance to deepen their characters a bit, mainly in the way they interact with each other as childhood pals who have taken unexpected turns along the way. Chon doesn't have quite as much to do with Jeff. Sure, he's been pushed into studying medicine by his fearsome dad, but he spends the entire movie in a drunken stupor.
Continue reading: 21 and Over Review